We’re going to see hundreds of new gTLDs over the coming years, but we’re also going to see potentially hundreds of failures.
That’s the view being espoused by some of the biggest cheerleaders of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program, including its former chairman, at the .nxt conference this week.
During the opening session on Wednesday, a panel of experts was asked to imagine what the domain name industry might look like in 2017, five years after the first new gTLDs go live.
“My assumption is that many TLDs will have completely failed to live up to their promoters’ hype,” said Minds + Machines executive chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, whose last action as ICANN chair was pushing through approval of the program. “But on the other hand many of them, and I hope a majority of them, will be thriving.”
Anyone expecting to build a business on defensive registrations better think again, panelists said.
“Many ill-conceived generic-term TLDs will have failed by that point, especially those generic term TLDs that are taking comfort in the .xxx Sunrise Part B revenue model,” said Paul McGrady of the law firm Greenberg Traurig.
“There’s definitely going to be burnout in the brand-owner community, so don’t expect the brand owners to show up to to fuel that,” he said.
Others, such as Tucows CEO Elliot Noss, went further.
“I think there’ll be more failures than successes and I’m not fussed by that,” said Noss. “For the users in the namespace, it’s not like they’re left high and dry.”
He compared failing gTLDs to the old Angelfire and Geocities homepage services that were quite popular in the late 1990s, but which fizzled when the cost of domains and hosting came down.
But while the disappearance of an entire gTLD would take all of its customers with it, a la Geocities, that’s unlikely to happen, panelists acknowledged.
ICANN’s program requires applicants to post a bond covering three years of operations, and it will also select a registry provider to act as an emergency manager if a gTLD manager fails.
When gTLD businesses fail, and they will, they’re designed to fail gracefully.
In addition, taking on an extra gTLD after its previous owner goes out of business would be little burden to an established registry provider — once the transition work was done, a new string would be a extra renewal revenue stream with possibly little additional overhead.